1. Iowa is the the latest addition to The 12’s swing state coverage. Zach Tilly, a junior majoring in political science and journalism at the University of Iowa, will blog on the 2012 election as it pertains to the Hawkeye state. 

    The Basics

    Iowa, the “perfectly average” embodiment of agricultural America, is the nation’s 26th largest state at 56,272 square miles, its capital and largest city is Des Moines, home to just over 200,000 people.

    Iowa’s economy is dominated by the manufacturing and agriculture, though much of the manufacturing in Iowa is centered around agriculture-related sectors like food processing and farm equipment. The state’s gross domestic product is $13.5 billion, the 30th largest in the nation.

    Despite its relatively small population (we’ll get to that in a moment), Iowa enjoys a disproportionately large amount of political clout due, primarily, to the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses.

    In 2008, President Barack Obama’s campaign was given its first boost with a win in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses.

    The People

    Iowa is the 30th most populous state with just over three million residents, 36 percent of whom live in rural areas.

    89 percent of Iowans are non-Hispanic white, five percent are Hispanic and Latino, three percent are African American.

    Nearly 15 percent of Iowans are 65 or older,  and 12.6 percent of Iowans live below the poverty line.

    The unemployment rate in Iowa is 5.1 percent, well below the national average. Median household income is nearly $48,000.

    The Politics

    Iowa currently has a Republican governor, a Senator from each party, three Democratic representatives, and two Republican representatives. Iowa will lose one representative during this election cycle due to slow relative population growth.

    Democratic voters are concentrated largely in urban population centers in central and eastern Iowa including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, and college towns like Ames and Iowa City. Republican voters are concentrated in the more rural west and south.

    2008 Iowa Election Results by County

    Barack Obama won Iowa by 9.5 percent in 2008, abd George W. Bush carried Iowa by 0.7 percent in 2004.

    Obama currently has a narrow lead over Mitt Romney, according to a PPP poll released Monday, but his lead has been steadily declining through the summer. 

    The New York Times’ Nate Silver forecasts a two point Obama victory in Iowa. 

    The Issues and the Campaign

    Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have spent a great deal of time in Iowa over the past several weeks. Obama spoke Tuesday at Iowa State University in Ames and returned on Saturday for a rally in Des Moines. Romney campaigned in Bettendorf in the week before the Republican National Convention.

    In the race for Iowa’s six electoral votes, the issue of wind energy has taken on a good deal of regional importance. Wind energy currently provides about 20 percent of Iowa’s electricity and employs more than 7,000 workers in the state. Currently, the federal government gives a 2.2 cent tax break to producers of wind energy for every kilowatt hour of energy they produce in order to make wind economically viable.

    President Obama has promised to extend the tax break, while Mitt Romney has voiced his opposition to the policy, drawing the ire of a bipartisan pro-wind coalition of Iowans that includes Republican lawmakers like Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley.

    Other, relatively minor regional issues that have drawn attention from the candidates in Iowa include federal ethanol standards and drought-related farm aid.

    For the most part, though, Iowans see jobs and the economy as the most pressing issues in this election cycle.

    The Bottom Line

    Given its position as one of the nation’s few true “toss-up” states, Iowa will undoubtedly receive more than its fair share of attention in the coming months from both the candidates and the rest of the nation. 

About The 12

The 12 is a group Tumblr of The Washington Post and student journalists in 12 battleground states documenting the 2012 presidential election and capturing perspectives of young voters.

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